My last post highlighted the following five questions each person should ask when working on a novel:
1. Who would enjoy reading the book?
2. What genre is my book?
3. What Point of View should I write in?
4. What tense is best for the characters?
5. What is the main conflict of my story?
This week I’d like to look at five more important questions to consider while writing a novel. Again, these are in no particular order.
1. What will happen if the hero/heroine fails?
As a writer it is easy to make your hero/heroine have a perfect life. Personally, I like to test my characters and put them through a little bit of drama before they make it to the happily ever after scene. It is important though, that you keep the character in character.
One of the things I consider while putting my characters through the drama is, how would this specific character react if this happens? Knowing your characters well enough to decide how they will react takes time. I’ve heard some authors like to get into character by writing journal type entries for their characters before starting their day writing. I’ve never tried this but think it could be interesting. Also, I’ve seen people create “text messages” based off characters from their books, again, I haven’t done this, but it might be a really good way to get into character.
So, back to my question, what happens if the hero/heroine fails? If they fail what sort of catastrophe will occur? Take my favorite show, The Princess Bride if Wesley fails in his attempt to get Buttercup back, what will happen? Ultimately, she will marry Prince Humperdinck (seriously! Where did that name come from?) and will be killed. Humperdinck has created a plan to have his bride murdered on their wedding night, since she survived the abduction.
Also, can I say TRUE LOVE is at risk as well?
The consequences of failure have to be enough to make the character give everything they have to create success.
2. What is my setting?
I write Regency Romance, so the best setting for my characters is London for the marriage market season or a town/city in England. Of course, I could place my story on any of the continents within the British Empire during the 1800s as well.
Consider, what is the best setting for the book you are looking to write. Would Hunger Games have been successful if it were placed in an actual country? Collins created Panem, which very possibly could be construed to be a North American country, but it really could be based anywhere on earth.
Star Trek takes place on a spaceship and alien planets. You can’t explore the stars by sitting on your living room couch… although you never know, perhaps one day we will be able to with the way technology continues to progress.
This question goes a lot with last week’s question on genre. If you know your genre, a lot of times the answer of where the setting takes place is simple but be creative in your choice and make it fit the characters’ personalities as well.
3. Who are my supporting characters and why are they important to the plot?
Supporting characters are important to the text to help move the story along. Would we possibly have a successful Superman without Lex Luther and Lois Lane? They say history is written by the winners, but what if the story is written by the sidekick or best friend? The Sherlock books are written from the perspective of Watson for good reason, no one would be able to make sense of Sherlock’s thoughts.
When thinking about supporting characters, try to make a list as to why these characters are important to the plot and the protagonist. What do they do to move the plot forward? Is it possible these characters are there to keep the protagonist on track? Harry Potter wouldn’t have survived without Hermione and Ron, although let’s admit it was Hermione’s brains that helped them through the majority of the obstacles to get Harry to the final moment where he would shine.
And unfortunately, if you find you have characters who aren’t needed, sometimes you can get rid of them. Kill them off in the text or just delete them. If they aren’t moving the plot along, don’t waste time developing them.
4. Does my character have any secrets?
This is a fun question. What secrets does your character hold that will get them into trouble? Do you need to have secrets? My answer to that is YES! Everyone has secrets in real life, so why wouldn’t your characters? It isn’t overly important for readers to always know the secrets of your characters, but if you as the author know, you can use them when needed. It also builds depth to your characters to give them hidden items.
So, what types of secrets help build plot, characters, and setting? Here are 2 suggestions:
a. Family secrets are a big one in the Regency era. It was commonly known, but unspoken, many families had baseborn children (illegitimate children). To have one show up in a book can cause significant drama.
b. Lies are a fun way to keep the reader in suspense. If you have a character who always lies, you could have other characters who know and make excuses for the liar or protect the liar. What happens to the characters for hiding the deceit of the other? They are allowing the lies to be told and helping to hide the information.
Overall, if you choose a really good secret, it will help shape the plot of your book and it very well could be the main focus of the novel as well.
5. How will I keep track of all of this information?
For a long time, I’ve used Microsoft Word to keep this information straight, but recently I’ve chosen to purchase an app called Scrivener. There is a space for Character Sketches, Research, Writing the book, and many more areas I haven’t yet discovered. I am new to Scrivener, so I have yet to understand everything about it, but it has helped me to be more organized in my writing.
Now you have 10 tips total on writing. I hope one of these days these questions will naturally fall into my writing and I won't have to sit and consider each one as I start a book, but I'm not there yet. I am still very much in the learning process.